Developing Program Student Learning Outcomes
The main components of a program learning outcome are (1) the measurable verb selected from Bloom’s taxonomy, and (2) the specific knowledge, skills, or attitudes you want students to demonstrate.
The general structure is:
By the end of the program, students will be able to (measurable verb)
(the knowledge, skill, or attitude you expect them to acquire)
(how they will apply their knowledge or skill/how you will assess their learning).
Upon completion of this program, students will be able to critically assess the factors influencing physical activity and nutrition (environment, community, habits, underlying thinking, lifestyle, and time allocation), and analyze how these factors shape their current choices.
By the end of the program, student will be able to:
Assess and analyze
Specific knowledge, skill, or attitude you expect them to acquire
- the factors (environment, community, habits, underlying thinking, lifestyle, and time allocation)
- how these factors shape their current choices related to physical activity and nutrition
Step 1: Select a Meaningful Action Verb
- The student learning outcome verb is an action word that identifies the performance to be demonstrated.
- The student learning outcome verb denotes the expected level of learning.
- Verbs can be aligned with pedagogical and/or philosophical commitments.
Use concrete verbs such as define, classify, operate, formulate, rather than passive verbs such as be exposed to or vague verbs such understand, know.
(used with permission from: Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Ball State University. (2023). Program-Level Student Learning Outcomes. )
Step 2: Learning Statement
The statement should clearly indicate the type of competence that is required of graduates in the program, and include:
- Knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes that a student in your program is expected to have within that area / field.
Areas / fields that are the focus of the assessment. How will students apply their knowledge or skill/how will you assess their learning?
- For example: Graduates of the program will apply technical skills in a diverse IT landscape to recognize and mitigate the potential negative impacts created by the introduction of new IT-based solutions on individuals, communities, and society as a whole.
Step 3: Reflect
Questions to guide the process:
- Do the learning outcomes accurately describe what a graduate should know, value and be able to do upon finishing the program? Do they describe adequately the unique strengths that a graduate of the program should possess? Are there any specific statements that should be added, consolidated and/or removed?
- Do the action verbs adequately convey an appropriate level of understanding for each learning outcome?
Are the learning outcomes concise and specific? Are they written from the students’ perspective, focused on what students can expect to achieve if they have learned successfully? Could multiple audiences (e.g., students, instructors, employers, administrators, across institutions) understand the learning outcomes?
- If not, how could the clarity of the learning outcome be improved?
Would the disciplinary context of the statement be clear if read in isolation?
- If not, what additional detail could be added to provide additional disciplinary context?
- Are they specific, observable, and measurable qualities? Could you appropriately assess each outcome?
- If not, how should they be revised? What additional detail/ context is required?
(adapted with permission from: Centre for Teaching and Learning, Western University. (2022). Curriculum Planning.)
Step 4: Think Specific, Measurable, and Attainable
- Define learning outcomes that are specific to your program. Include in clear and definite terms the expected abilities, knowledge, values, and attitudes a student who graduates from your program is expected to have.
- Focus on intended outcomes that are critical to your program. When the data from the assessment process are known, these outcomes should create an opportunity to make improvements in the program that is being offered to your students.
- The intended outcome should be one for which it is feasible to collect accurate and reliable data.
- Learning outcomes should be stated such that the outcome can be measured by more than one assessment method. Can several measures be used to evaluate the knowledge that students have gained as a result of the program?
AGGRESSIVE BUT ATTAINABLE
- Use learning outcomes and that will move you in the direction of your vision, but do not try to “become perfect” all at once.
- How have the students’ experiences in the program contributed to their abilities, knowledge, values, and attitudes? Ask:
- Cognitive skills: What does the student know?
- Performance skills: What does the student do?
- Affective skills: What does the student care about?
- What are the knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes expected of graduates of the program?
- What would the “perfect” program look like in terms of outcomes?
- What would a “good” program look like in terms of outcomes?
(adapted with permission from: Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Ball State University. (2023). Program-Level Student Learning Outcomes.)